Monday, January 13, 2014


January 12 was Baptism of the Lord Sunday. On that Sunday, the Gospel was/is Matthew 3: 13-17. Jesus goes to the Jordan to be baptized by John and John refuses- at first. John says: “No way, man, I need you to baptize me.” But, Jesus, obedient to God’s will that he enter fully in to human experience, goes down into the water. He reaches the bottom of our human experience and identifies with us. He also identifies with the Kingdom of God. He sees the Spirit descending on him like a dove. That’s an interesting verse. He “sees” the spirit. How in the world can you see the Spirit? The Spirit by its very nature is invisible, isn’t it? In John 3, Jesus is speaking with Nicodemus and says: “The Spirit blows where it wills. You don’t know where it comes from or where it goes. You only see the results of it.” When the wind blows, you see the trees moving. But, you can’t see the wind. It says: “Jesus saw the spirit”. Stevie Ray Vaughn was a rock guitarist and when he died he wanted a grave side service and he wanted his fellow musicians to lead everyone in singing: “Amazing Grace.” The pastor who was leading the service said that he was utterly moved when he heard and saw Bonnie Raitt, and Stevie Wonder leading the singing. Others well-known people were there as well. But, the pastor says that it was interesting seeing and hearing Stevie Wonder sing: “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost but now I am found, was blind but now I see…” Was blind but now I see. Wow. So, we see with eyes of faith at a level deeper than just our physical eyes. Grace comes to Jesus and is in Jesus for all. When we are baptized, it is a gift of God’s grace in Christ. It’s not that suddenly I became smart and did this. It’s that God, in his mercy, has come to me, to us, and offered his love and grace. And, we spend our whole lives figuring out what it means to now be a disciple of Christ in the world. For us United Methodists, Baptism is a one-time, once-in-a- lifetime thing. And, whether we are a child or an adult, Baptism is a gift, a sacrament, an outward, visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace. Don’t you have to accept it for yourself? Please. Of course, salvation is that transaction between us and God that is only complete when we accept it for ourselves. But, Baptism is just the beginning of that life of faith. Some say: “Babies don’t know what they are doing yet. They don’t understand.” That’s true. And, yet, I have seen those who claim to baptize only those who know what it means, baptize a seven year old. Now, I would argue that that seven year old knows no more than a baby – really. And, then, when it comes down to it, even we adults don’t understand grace. It’s really hard to understand an awesome gift. It comes to us before we can think or decide for ourselves. God is busy loving us into his love. I know. Some take our children who have been baptized and immerse them and claim them as converts. Nonsense. They are already baptized. The grace of God was there claiming and loving that child the first time. Love has always been a hard thing for some folks to accept and they try to turn into something that we do. No, the beauty of baptism is that it says that God loved us first. It’s about grace. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…I was blind but now I see. Salvation is growing in grace to see more and better all the time. Blessings! Dave Nichols

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